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The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Truro is an Anglican cathedral located in the city of Truromarker, Cornwallmarker, in the United Kingdommarker. It was built in the Gothic Revival architectural style fashionable during the period, and is one of only three cathedrals in the United Kingdom with three spires.

History and description

The see of Truro was established in 1876 and the first Bishop consecrated in 1877: this was the first cathedral to be built on a new site in England since Salisbury Cathedral in 1220.Construction began in 1880 on the site of the sixteenth-century parish church (St Mary the Virgin) to a design by the architect John Loughborough Pearson, a leading figure of the 19th century Gothic Revival. The design combines the Early English style with certain French characteristics, chiefly spires and rose windows. Truro's resemblance to Lincoln Cathedralmarker is not coincidental: Pearson had been appointed as Lincoln's Cathedral Architect and the first Bishop of Truro, Edward Benson, had previously been Canon Chancellor at Lincoln. The central tower and spire stands 250 feet (76 m) tall, while the western towers reach to 200 feet (61 m).


Parish church and chapels An original aisle of St Mary's church is still contained within the south-east corner of the cathedral and still functions as the city centre's parish church. Three brasses were described by Edwin Dunkin in 1882: those of Cuthbert Sydnam, 1630, Thomas Hasell, 1567, and George Fitzpen, rector of the parish. The Cathedral is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and as such has no Lady Chapel. A Jesus Chapel and the Chapel of Unity and Peace are reserved for quiet and prayer throughout the day.

Distorted plan Truro has a further unusual feature – a slight bend in its plan: because the cathedral is situated in the heart of the city there was little room with houses and shops packed closely about on all sides. In order to accommodate the cathedral it was necessary to bend the building six feet northward.

Chapter house There was no chapter house until 1967 when the opportunity to enlarge the building on the south-east arose.

Early years

Two foundation stones were laid in 1880 and the first section of the cathedral was consecrated in 1887. The central tower was completed by 1905 and the building was completed with the opening of the two western towers in 1910. Pearson died in 1897 and the work of his architectural practice was continued by his son, Frank. The Cathedral was the location for the first service of Nine Lessons and Carols, devised by Bishop Edward White Benson for Christmas Eve, 1880.

Renovation projects

In 2002 the East End was completely renovated and restored with some of the ornate Bath stone replaced with harder wearing Syerford stone: in 2005 the West Front was restored similarly. Both projects were supervised by MRDA Architects of London, the Cathedral architects. The Cathedral has a major restoration project to undertake on the central tower which will involve a fundraising campaign being launched in 2009. Each year the Cathedral attracts over 200,000 visitors and the signage at the main doorway is in several languages, including Cornish.

Dean and Chapter

The Cathedral is governed by the Dean and Chapter consisting of a Dean and five residentiary canons (see top right of article) There are additionally 24 stalls for honorary canons named after saints associated with the church in Cornwall. E. L. Mascall was for a time Canon Theologian of Truro. Gilbert Hunter Doble the historian was an honorary canon of Truro.


A fine new organ of four manuals and forty-five stops built by Henry Willis was installed in 1887, since when it has seen very little alteration. One of many built to a standard design, the combination of its superb voicing and the Cathedral's fine acoustics have given it a reputation as one of the finest organs in the world. More of its history can be seen on on the Cathedral website, while its specification can be seen on on the National Pipe Organ Register.

The other main organ in the Cathedral is a two-manual instrument in the St Mary's Aisle, the sole remnant of the former parish church. It was originally built by Renatus Harris and was installed in Truro in 1750 by John Byfield . It was re-installed in the temporary church in 1880, but was significantly rebuilt and reduced in size in 1887 for installation in its current location . There is also a four-stop continuo organ by Kenneth Tickell .

Organists and assistant organists

See also the List of Organ Scholars of Truro Cathedral.
  • 1881 George Robertson Sinclair
  • 1890 Mark James Monk
  • 1920 Hubert Stanley Middleton
  • 1926 John Dykes Bower
  • 1929 Guillaume Ormond
  • 1971 John Winter
  • 1989 David Briggs
  • 1994 Andrew Nethsingha
  • 2002 Robert Sharpe
  • 2008 Christopher Gray

Assistant organists
  • Ivor Atkins 1885 - 1886
  • Frederick Rowland Tims 1902 - 1907
  • William Stanley Sutton 1907 - 1911
  • Gerald Hocken Knight 1922 - 1926
  • Arthur William Baines
  • Donald Behenna
  • Henry Doughty
  • Simon Morley 1991 - 2000
  • Christopher Gray 2000 - 2008
  • Luke Bond 2008 -


A peal of ten bells: the tenor bell weighs 33-3-10. Additionally there are six bells in the Green Tower of which five form a chiming peal (previously in St Mary's Parish Church). A planned great bourdon bell for the south-west tower was never made.

Photo gallery

Image:TruroCathedral-BVM-fromSW-01.jpg|The Cathedral seen from the South-WestImage:TruroCathedral-StMary-fromE-01.jpg|The Cathedral seen from the East in 1913Image:Truro Cathedral in 1905, before completion of its spire.jpg|The Cathedral in 1905, before completion of the central tower. The former south aisle of the old church (St Mary's Aisle) can be seen in the foreground.Image:TruroCathedralRain.jpg|The Cathedral seen from the South-East. The St Mary's Aisle can be seen in the foreground, plus the tower with which Pearson provided it.Image:Truro Cathedral 1.jpg|The West Front looking across High CrossmarkerImage:TruroCathedralWest.jpg|The West frontImage:Truro_rooftops.jpg|The Cathedral seen over Truro's rooftopsImage:Truro stmarysst.jpg|Truro Cathedral from St Mary's Street

See also


  1. The other two being Lichfield Cathedral and St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh .
  2. G. R. S. of Elgar's Enigma Variations
  3. Scholes, Percy A. (1970) The Oxford Companion to Music, 10th ed. London: Oxford U. P.; p. 123b (afterwards organist of New College Oxford; Durham Cathedral; and St Paul's Cathedral; knighted 1968)
  4. Dictionary of organs and organists. First edition. 1912. p.339
  5. Dictionary of organs and organists. First edition. 1912. p.336
  6. Dove, R. H. (1982) A Bellringer's Guide to the Church Bells of Britain and Ringing Peals of the World, 6th ed. Aldershot: Viggers
  7. Brown, H. M. (1976) A Century for Cornwall. Truro: Blackford; p. 54
  • Cooper, Canon (1925) The Restoration of the Cornish Bishopric. In: Cornish Church Guide. Truro: Blackford; pp. 30–50
  • Henderson, Charles (1925) Truro St Mary V. In: Cornish Church Guide. Truro: Blackford; pp. 209–10

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